Date: May 22, 2015
By Dan Wooding, Founder ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
HOMS, SYRIA (ANS – May 22, 2015)-- An Assyrian priest and deacon were kidnapped yesterday (Thursday, May 21, 2015) in Homs, Syria.
The Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org), is reporting that according to witnesses, two armed men riding a motorcycle entered the grounds of the Mar Ilyan al-Sharqi monastery of the Assyrian Catholic Church at about 3 PM.
“The monastery is located in the town of al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Region. The kidnappers forced the head of the monastery, Fr. Jacques Murad, and Deacon Hanna Boutros into Fr. Murad’s own car and drove away,” said the AINA story.
“No information is available on the identity of the kidnappers and they have not contacted anyone.”
In April, 2013 an Assyrian and a Greek Bishop were kidnapped in Syria, by armed rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, state news agency SANA said, and their whereabouts is still unknown.
They were the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim respectively, were seized by “a terrorist group” in the village of Kfar Dael as they were “carrying out humanitarian work.”
Several prominent Muslim clerics have been killed in Syria's four-year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but the two bishops are the most senior church leaders to be caught up in the conflict.
A Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey.
Ibrahim, who is familiar with the route and had crossed there several times before, had gone to collect Yazigi and the two men were driving to Aleppo when they were kidnapped, Steifo said.
According to reports from Syria and also the Turkish press, ISIS has bombed two churches in Syria, the St. Odisho Assyrian Church in Tel Tal and the St. Rita Tilel Armenian Church in Aleppo. The churches were bombed on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
Located on the Khabur river in the Hasaka province in Syria, Tel Tal is one of the 35 Assyrian villages that was attacked by ISIS on February 23. ISIS captured nearly 300 Assyrians in those attacks and subsequently released 23, all from the village of Tel Goran. The remaining Assyrians are still being held captive.
According to AINA, attacks on Assyrians in Syria have escalated since 2012, resulting in multiple instances of killings, kidnappings and attacks on churches and villages.
The entire Assyrian population of these villages, nearly 3,000, has left their homes and are expected never to return. Some have already emigrated to Lebanon. Most are living in Hasaka or Qamishli and are planning to leave Syria.
Photo captions: 1) Assyrian refugees praying for the violence to stop. 2) Kidnapped: Greek Orthodox Bishop Paul Yazigi (left) and Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim. 3) The St. Odisho Assyrian Church in Tel Tal, Syria, was bombed by Islamic State. 4) Dan Wooding reporting from outside of the Kurdistan Government Building in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world, and also “His Channel Live,” a TV show beamed to 192 countries. Dan has reported on the conflict in the Middle East when he made a two week reporting trip Northern Iraq.